Back to (Business) School: Deirdre Dewar Studies for Success
“There's not a lot of Indigenous women that are in business, per se, in the academic sense. We really love to see role models that reflect who we are and as an Indigenous woman, I've never really met women in business until I got to the university level,” Deirdre Dewar recalls, and that’s something she hopes to change.
She comes from Lac Seul First Nation which is in Treaty 2 territory in Northern Ontario. Deawr is an Objibwe woman who grew up in Winnipeg and a student at the Asper School of Business. She is in her fourth year of a double major in indigenous Business Studies, and human resource management and industrial relations.
“School has always been one of my favourite places to be, because I just love being surrounded by people and I also love reading and writing,” she recalls. Growing up, she loved reading the inspirational quotes on the walls of her classrooms, keeping her motivated to succeed in her education. “I really always had a goal in mind to obtain a college or university degree and I've actually done both,” she continues.
In junior high and high school, Dewar went through some dark times. “Sometimes things just happen and life throws you curveballs - things that are out of your control. I would just keep going back and keep trying time and time again, until I achieved the goal of graduating with my Mature Student diploma,” she recalls. In her thirties, Dewar decided to go back to school once more and now she’s got grad school on her mind and her undergraduate convocation is within her grasp. After grad school, she wants to be an entrepreneur or a professor.
She chose business studies after doing some career exploration in the workforce. Her past attempts at university hadn’t panned out but after working as a housekeeper, dietary aide and teacher’s aide, she thought about becoming a nurse or a teacher. She ended up settling on business school and loves the community she found in her field of study. There’s a special group for Indigenous commerce students and the relationships she had there helped her through the pandemic. She’s also part of the Indigenous Students Association.
Outside of her studies, she’s in the President's Student Leadership Program, one she was selected for. Program participants work on a community project in their final year and she’s one of thirty students making a difference in their community before they graduate. Dewar’s project is making awareness posters for important days in a range of cultures and to issues of importance to the Indigenous community.
In the middle of all of that, she’s also raising her children, taking care of her family, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her home. She also works part-time for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. To take care of herself, she gets her hair and nails done, goes for walks, listens to music and runs. She likes to lose herself in movies, particularly comedies. Indigenous people love to laugh. I know I do,” she smiles.
She hopes that Indigenous youth pursuing business studies understand the discipline it takes to juggle school, work and family, but also know the benefits education brings. “You do sacrifice a lot of time just to get the work done. But it is worth it in the end, because you could make your quality of life better with an education,” she explains.
Dewar also recommends getting a lot of work experience and meeting as many people as possible. “You never know where your next job is going to come from,” she advises. She found her research assistant job after meeting someone who introduced her to a hiring manager.
While studying hard, she didn’t always sleep as much as she thought she would, and she didn’t go out as much either. Dewar made school a priority before other things and it’s paid off. She’s dreaming of buying a house for an important reason. “The whole history of generational wealth and lack thereof, it's always a goal of mine to one day own my own home,” she reflects.
Joining the small community of Indigenous women in the academics of business, she’s found a “home” in business school that she hopes will lead to a new home of her own. She hadn’t met Indigenous women in business until she got to university and now Deirdre Dewar is becoming one. Knowing how important it is to have role models who reflect who we are, she’s pursuing graduate studies in hopes of stepping into that role herself, leading the way as she goes.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.